The Sako S20 was definitely cheated when it hit the market in 2020; Covid19 stole the media spotlight and was also responsible for the cancellation of the SHOT Show and the Annual NRA Show, the two largest firearms manufacturer events of the year. So, the S20 came to market with a cough rather than the fanfare and parade it deserved.
The S20 has a right to feel slighted, but the US consumers were also cheated by not getting the exposure they deserved to the new Sako offering. So, let’s take a fresh look at the S20’s features, options, and performance.
Sako introduced the S20 as a “hybrid” rifle. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a hybrid is the offspring of two different species, breeds, varieties, or genera; in this case a hunting rifle and a precision sporting rifle. That definition certainly fits the S20 as it has aspects and characteristics of both rifle styles, but it is also so much more.
I first saw the S20 as more of a chameleon, than a blend. The shooter is able to change and adapt the S20 to their needs due to its unique modular design and the variety of parts available, which Sako says is only the beginning of the product offerings. I received the Precision model for evaluation and purchased the additional Hunter stock set so that I could fully review both design configurations.
The S20 action is attached to an aluminum chassis under the polymer stock and forearm which are replaceable and can be ordered in either a thumbhole hunting style or a straight gripped heavier style, typically used for precision sports shooting. Either way, the S20 maintains incredible accuracy due to the underlying chassis mounting system.
Both stock designs feature an easily adjustable cheekpiece that ensures a proper fit so the shooter can be aligned with the scope. Both stocks also feature removable spacers to allow adjustment for length of pull to be customized for the shooter’s body size and comfort.
The Precision stock also features additional adjustments for the height and angle of the recoil pad against the shooter’s shoulder. Both stock styles feature a vertical grip that is critical in achieving the straightest trigger pull possible to enhance shooting accuracy.
I’ve always liked the look of traditional rifle stocks, so I was never a big fan of the thumbhole design, purely based on visual appeal. However, after handling and shooting the S20 Hunter stock for several weeks I am sold. The ergonomics and overall feel of this stock’s design cannot be beat; they made me a convert.
Changing the buttstock is a matter of using the provided T25 Torx wrench to loosen two screws and slide off one stock and install the other, then retightening the screws to the chassis. The forearms take just a bit more work to change between the slimmer Hunting forearm to the thicker Precision forearm.
The tip of the Precision forearm has M-Lok mounting slots milled in the aluminum to support accessory mounting. I mounted a section of Picatinny rail to attach a Hatch bipod for part of the testing.
I used a Harris bipod on the Hunter forearm mounted to the single sling swivel stud. Both stock sets have flush cups for utilizing quick disconnect sling mounts on the sides of the stock so the rifle will hang flat when slung.
The Sako bolt is a 3 lug design with a straight bolt handle with an oversized knob to ensure rapid, positive bolt manipulation. The action is very smooth and quick to operate, with no binding or stiffness.
The S20 has an excellent adjustable trigger. A quick adjustment dropping it to the low end of the 2-4 lb. range, and the trigger was breaking cleanly right at 2 pounds. It allowed breaking precise shots on the targets out to 850 yards.
The cold hammer-forged barrel is 24 inches long and fluted to keep weight down for hunting. Sako did a great job on the barrel profile. It is a mid-weight that is light enough to still support hunting but heavy enough to allow accurate five-shot groups before it heats up. The muzzle is threaded 5/8 x 24 to support mounting a muzzle brake or a suppressor, I mounted both for testing and shooting.
My test rifle was chambered in 6.5 PRC; what I consider to be a medium magnum cartridge. Recoil was manageable even with no muzzle device installed. However, I was going to compete in a long-range match with the rifle so I needed it to stay as flat and controllable as possible so I could see splash from misses or perhaps bullet trace at longer distances.
Based on experience I installed an APA Little Bastard muzzle brake. These brakes work really well and are tunable by installing set screws in the smaller ports to control exhaust gas flow. The APA allowed me to generally keep the target in sight within the scope no matter how awkward the shooting position.
Range sessions with the S20 never disappointed, in fact, the sub-moa guarantee was a solid case of under promise and over deliver. The S20 shot half-moa from the very start and continued to do so for every target session. I was shooting a 200 yard zero and groups were consistently around one inch. Occasionally on long shooting strings the barrel would start to open up a little due to heat buildup and the 90+ outside temps not supporting cool down, but was easily sub-moa.
I shot 3 different scopes on the S20 during the testing so it ended up being quite a bit of sighting in and zero setting. The National Rifle League event I was going to shoot with the S20 has a 12-pound weight limit for “Factory” gun division, so I was experimenting with what scope, bipod, stock, and muzzle brake combination would work best and still be under the limit.
The chassis system was obviously doing a tremendous job, the zero never changed when I would change stocks unless I removed the scope. And even then, the integral rail sections machined in the receiver allowed a very easy return to zero remounting if it was the same scope and rings.
I also took advantage of an invitation to shoot a variety of KGM suppressors one day. I tried 3 different suppressors on the Sako S20. Each changed the point of impact slightly, around .2 mil as the increased size and weight influenced the barrel harmonics.
All shot extremely well and did not impact the fantastic accuracy I had come to expect from the S20. It continued to shoot around ½ moa despite hanging different weight devices on the end of the barrel. However, recoil and target movement within the scope got better and better as we worked up to the KGM XL model.
Shooting a magnum caliber and watching impacts at distance is the true measure of recoil control. The KGM suppressors made it possible with a sub 12-pound gun. The fact that it also made the magnum ear safe while shooting is just another bonus
For those not familiar with KGM, they are the largest manufacturer of suppressors in the western hemisphere. However, they just launched their own brand in January 2021, and they continue to work with the military and law enforcement to make their designs better. Look for their name in the future when evaluating suppressors for your needs.
Caliber- 6.5 PRC tested (6.5 CM, 308 Win, 243 Win, 30-06, 270 Win, 7 Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag)
Receiver- Cerakoted Stainless Steel with integral scope bases
Barrel- 24” Fluted, Cold Hammer Forged
Muzzle- Threaded 5/8 x 24
Finish- Grey Cerakote
Stock- Chassis mounted (Hunter or Precision models available) Adjustable cheek piece, length of pull
Weight- ~8 PoundsDepending on configuration
Capacity- 5 Round or 10 round magazines for standard cartridges, 3 or 7 or magnum cartridges
Trigger- Adjustable 2-4 Pounds-
~Price- $1699 Precision, $1599 Hunter
The funny thing about it is that Sako was right all along, the S20 is a “Hybrid” rifle. My favorite configuration after all the testing and the match was over is the Hunter buttstock and the Precision forearm.
This gives me the ability to use all my rail mounted accessories and I like how the thumbhole stock feels even better than the Precision grip. It also happened to weigh in at 11 pounds 5 ½ ounces when outfitted with the Leupold Mark 5HD 3.6-18x and the Hatch bipod I want to try out for hunting.
Additional S20 accessories available from Sako include the thumb rest, monopod, barricade stop, muzzle brake, and a variety of rings. Similar to the Sako TRG this is going to be a weapon system not just a rifle.
The Sako S20 is an impressive rifle. It carries and balances well, shoots fantastic, has a great trigger, smooth action, reliable magazines, and the fact that you can have it your way is an added bonus.
The S20 and I didn’t do as well as I expected to in the NRL Hunter match but the fault was all mine. The match required the shooter to run to the shooting area, find the targets, range and establish data, build shooting positions and engage targets under the clock.
My issue was finding the unpainted targets in the broken terrain to be able to move on to the shooting. The S20 did great of hitting them if or when I did find them, but I let it down on the finding portion. Oh well, first time at that style competition, many lessons learned (bigger, better bino’s).
With that experience behind me, now I’m looking forward to using it on my elk hunt later in the year, and have no doubts about its capabilities or mine to see the much larger elk. The S20 6.5 PRC is definitely going to put some meat in the freezer with its chassis rifle accuracy but won’t feel near as cold on the hands with the purpose designed stock.
The S20 definitely didn’t get its due with the cancellation of both the 2020 and 2021 Trade shows but it’s out there now and it’s worth your time to track one down and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.For more information, visit Sako Here
Of the Sako S20 reviews; this review was in my top 2 and influenced my decision to purchase the S20 in 6.5 PRC.
Great review. It is a good thing that this rifle costs what it does or I would be ordering right now.
Eurooptic.com is having a S20 sale right now. Prices reduced $300 – $500 depending on model and caliber.